Bachata Roja: Amor y Amargue
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Various Artists
Bachata Roja: Amor y Amargue

Various Artists
The Bachata Legends
Both titles: iASO Records ( www.iasorecords.com)

After the fall of the Trujillo dictatorship, the disparaged urban Dominican working-class music known as bachata came into its own in the latter 1960s and thereafter. This decidedly macho song tradition, meant for dancing, has some affinity with the Cuban son and guaracha, combining ballads of lost love and other misfortunes of daily life, tightly backed by guitar, requinto, bass, bongos, guiro, and occasional accordion and saxophone. The original hits were often recorded before a single microphone, as evident on the 16 raw tracks compiled on Amor y Amargue (“Love and Bitterness”). Heard in all their ragged glory are Juan Bautista, Ramón Isidro Cabrera “El Chivo Sin Ley” (the lawless ram, i.e., big boss, named after his composition of the same name, whose wordplay irked the Dominican military), Robin Cariño, Rafael Encarnación, Antonio Gómez Salcero, Daniel Morillo, Marino Perez, Eladio Romero Santos, Augusto Santos, Luis Segura and Ramón Torres. The musicianship is superb, and the notes, in English and Spanish, offer brief summaries of the songs.

Decades after the foregoing artists first made their mark, some can now be heard in high-fidelity format for the first time. Growing out of a groundbreaking 2008 U.S. tour, The Bachata Legends presents 14 songs by Ramón Isidro Cabrera, Ramón Cordero, Leonardo Paniagua and Augusto Santos, recorded in a contemporary studio setting, featuring some of the work that originally brought them to fame in the Dominican Republic. While the accompanying notes are rather brief, background material, lyrics and English-language translations are available on the iASO web site, and taken together, this pair of titles is a worthy introduction to a vibrant popular Dominican tradition. - Michael Stone

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